TUKWILA, Wash. — If the Portland Timbers had beaten the Seattle Sounders in making the jump to Major League Soccer, there would have been a real possibility that Kasey Keller would be wearing a Portland Timbers jersey today. As it turned out, the Sounders became an MLS expansion team in 2009, two seasons before the Timbers.
The Sounders goalkeeper, who has referenced the Cascadia rivalry match as one of his primary motivations for returning for the 2011 season, played college soccer at the University of Portland and still maintains friendships in the Portland area.
When asked if he could have been a Timber, Keller said, “Of course.”
“I have a lot of fond memories of UP and the WSL incarnation of the Timbers that I played in,” Keller said. “Obviously, Olympia and Seattle and playing in Federal Way - this was far more home than Portland and this felt right.”
Keller, a native of Olympia, Wash., attended the University of Portland from 1988-91 and played for legendary University of Portland soccer coach Clive Charles. He also played one season for the Portland Timbers franchise, earning league MVP honors in 1989 in the now-defunct Western Soccer League.
Under Charles, Keller developed enough to earn a spot as a 20-year-old on the 1990 US World Cup team, which served as a launch pad for a two-decade career in Europe.
Keller said Monday that the Portland-Seattle rivalry reminds him of the South London derby between West Ham and Millwall, Keller’s first European club. After having played for one of those teams, Keller believes the rivalry between the fans would have made it very difficult to ever play for the other side.
And so it is with Seattle and Portland. Keller confirmed Monday that he’s 100 percent committed to the Rave Green. The goalkeeper’s career may also continue in the Seattle front office after he retires from his playing career.
“I have no ill will toward the Timbers or Portland or anything like that, but you just realize that when you’re part of something and there’s that much rivalry and that much intensity involved, sometimes you just have to polarize yourself,” Keller said. “I’m a Sounder.”
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS